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Helen Upperton, underfunded bobsledder

From visiting the local food banks just to fill the cupboard to asking their parents for loans, Canadian amateur athletes have to make great sacrifices in order to realize their Olympic dreams. They say the federal government doesn't spend enough on amateur sport. But federal ministers like Otto Jelinek argue that athletes should not expect government handouts.

How far can $500 a month take an elite athlete? Not far, says bobsledder Helen Upperton, who struggles with that much in government funding to continue her training. Just to make ends meet, Upperton has taken a job pushing the cart that draws lines on a baseball diamond, as seen in this 2003 report from CBC-TV's The National. With the Winter Games coming to Vancouver in 2010, how do potential world-class Canadian athletes get the funding they need in order to compete?
• In 2002, the Canadian Olympic Committee introduced a new funding program that allocated $6.8 million to amateur athletics funding with a focus on "future high performance excellence and podium finishes."
  • Helen Upperton was born in Kuwait on Oct. 31, 1979 and raised in Calgary. Much of her young life was spent travelling because her parents were in the oil industry. One of their work assignments was in Texas, where Helen earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Texas in Austin. There, she excelled as a triple jumper.

• Upperton holds the position of pilot with the Canadian women's bobsled team. She has been on the squad since 2003, and in 2005-06 she led Canada to its first ever World Cup gold medal (at St. Moritz, Switzerland) and a highest-ever finish at the Olympic Games, placing 4th in Torino. In 2006-07, Upperton won three more World Cup medals and never placed outside the top six.

• In 2007-08, Upperton was partnered with brakemen Jenny Ciochetti and Heather Moyse and her team earned five medals, including gold on their Calgary home track. In 2008-09, Upperton team achieved six top-four finishes including two gold medals. All results are according to the FIBT (International Bobsledding and Tobogganing Federation) website.

• Upperton won a silver medal at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver in the two-woman bobsled event. Her teammate was Shelley-Ann Brown.

Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: July 3, 2003
Guest(s): Erica Andersen, Jean Chrétien, Paul DeVillers, Ken Read, Helen Upperton
Host: Ben Chin
Reporter: Eric Sorensen
Duration: 2:43
This clip was edited for copyright reasons.

Last updated: May 17, 2012

Page consulted on February 3, 2014

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